I write this from a hotel in the beautiful, historic, expensive Queen Anne neighborhood, while listening to the shouts of a volatile and possibly unhinged man on the streets below. And that just about sums up my time here in Seattle this year.
When I lived in Seattle 15 years ago, it was a medium-sized city with large city ambitions. It had miserable weather, great coffee, and pathological denial that grunge music actually peaked in 1994. There were computer programmers, and bookstores, and people who traded tips on how to use artificial sun lamps to keep from killing yourself.
Everyone drove a Subaru.
Nowadays, Seattle is not like that. Seattle is where capitalism goes to die. Seattle is the prequel to Blade Runner.* Seattle is hyperfuturistic corporations that create their own magnificent biomes that are closed to the public almost all the time.
For real. This is “The Spheres” by Amazon:
Google is here. Microsoft is here. Amazon, of course, is here. RealNetworks, Tableau, Zillow, Expedia. And a million, zillion more. Many of these software companies are working on projects so advanced that they legitimately could be viewed as science fiction. But when you leave your job making programmable sentient cupcakes, or whatever, and you step out onto the street . . . the pavement is cracked, the streets are full of potholes, and the homeless are everywhere. We do not have to imagine a dystopia where robots fly next to shanty towns. It is here.
Making matters even more stark, Seattle is a city that prides itself on being “progressive.” Unlike Boise, where movie trailers feature advertisements for shooting ranges, the assumption in Seattle is that we are all Progressive and Inclusive and Care About Human Rights, Not Like Those Other People.
Our hotel, for example, has bathrooms in the lobby with prominently-displayed signs that say “All Gender Bathroom.”
Meanwhile, in this very nice part of town, I passed 3 homeless men in just one block. So they’re progressive about everything in Seattle, except, you know, if it costs them something.
My general impression of Seattle in 2018 is that they’re fine with letting you freeze to death on the street, but they’ll make a big effort to use the right gender pronoun at your funeral.
And they’re not prejudiced — they welcome any type of billionaire, of whatever background…
…and if you do die on the street, they want you to know it’s not because you’re black. It’s because you’re poor.**
They hope you understand how very enlightened this makes them.
Seattle is an entire city full of those smug assholes I knew from college who’d say, “Well actually, I consider myself socially liberal, but fiscally conservative.” ***
Seattle is what happens when a whole bunch of educated upper-income people NIMBY their way into never helping anybody at all, because, you know. Property values. “Moral hazard.” Having low corporate taxes helps us all… somehow or other.
On the plus side, there’s an amazing chocolate factory in Fremont, and if you walk within a 5 block radius of it, the air smells like truffles.
So it’s not all bad.
* And not just because it’s cloudy all the time.
** Or rather, given the rents around here, “not rich.”
*** Translation: I used to be part of the Young Republicans, but then I realized I was gay.